The National government is using the need to modernise the school system as a Trojan horse for privatisation and an end to free public education as we know it, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.
“There is no doubt that technology provides a huge range of opportunities to better connect students with teaching and learning, but as always, the devil is in the detail.
“We need to proceed with caution, drawing on robust evidence, and taking care to ensure that equity and quality are preserved. National’s plans do none of those things.
“National’s latest plan could see students sitting at home in their bedrooms with a laptop receiving their tuition from a foreign corporation. That’s what this law change allows.
"They fail to see that there is a lot that kids learn at school outside of just the purely academic. They learn how to get on with other people, they learn their social skills and all those sorts of things at school as well and kids sitting at home in front of a computer aren't necessarily going to be learning those things.
“How long will it be before Hekia Parata starts using the availability of online learning alternatives as an excuse to close down small schools?
“It’s also telling that the Bill before the House relaxes the restrictions around correspondence/online providers charging fees to students. It’s the beginning of the end for free public education as we know it.
“The irony is that in the same Bill that opens the door to much greater private sector involvement in the provision of schooling, National is massively reducing the flexibility and autonomy offered to existing public schools and subjecting them to even more compliance and red-tape.
“If the proposed changes were genuinely about improving educational outcomes, the National Party would’ve consulted the experts about their plans before charging ahead.
“National’s agenda is being driven by a desire to cut costs and privatise. It’s certainly not being driven by education and research,” Chris Hipkins says.